For some executives, communication is an afterthought, or even a “necessary evil.” A Harvard Business Review/Harris poll found that a staggering 91 percent of U.S. workers see communication issues as a major hindrance for business leaders.
Thriving organizations have open lines of communication at all levels, including at the top. According to research conducted by the Project Management Institute, leaders who are effective communicators are five times more likely to be high performers than those who are minimally effective. Likewise, better communication means fewer company dollars are put at risk.
What can leaders and top corporate communicators do to ensure that executives are communicating effectively? Here are nine best practices, as laid out by communication experts, researchers and successful executives themselves:
1. Foster a culture of communication.
In a post on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School’s website, communications expert Walter G. Montgomery writes, “It’s important for everyone to know that the CEO takes communications very seriously.” When everyone within an organization understands that communication is a key value—not just an afterthought—everyone will be more willing to listen and engage.
2. Don’t be afraid of training.
Montgomery adds that top executives should “insist on training initiatives to ensure people have the ability to carry out their communications duties effectively.” Those training mandates should apply to executives themselves.
3. Be crystal clear.
Employees are busy, which means they don’t have time to do detective work to figure out what an executive speech or email means. Dispense with meaningless platitudes and jargon. Say what you mean and let employees know in clear language what you want them to do.
4. Don’t just be a cheerleader.
The Institute for Public Relations suggests that employees today are looking for ways to demonstrate their “ethic of contribution” to go above and beyond normal job performance, so challenge them to achieve; don’t just point to what they’ve done.
5. Have a common goal in mind.
Everyone within and organization should be working toward the same thing, and it’s up to executives to make that goal apparent. The American Management Association’s David Hassell puts it this way: “When employees operate at cross purposes, communication is critical in setting things straight.”
6. Speak in your own voice.
Employees want to hear from a person. They don’t want canned, committee-written edicts. “The lower your pedestal, the more they’ll rally behind you,” Alexandra Levit of Inspiration at Work told Inc.
7. Engage in a dialogue.
Communication doesn’t end when you send your email or give your speech. Hassell writes, “Meet the enthusiastic sharing of ideas, insights, and concerns with positive reinforcement, never reproach, no matter how critical.”
8. Take a multi-pronged approach.
Different employees want different things when it comes to communication. Some may prefer face-to-face interaction with a manager, others may prefer to read messages in newsletters or other company-wide emails. Still others may look to the company intranet. Craft versions of your key messages to cater to all the audiences within your organization to ensure everyone is on the same page.
9. Measure your results.
The Institute for PR insists that “best in class companies relentlessly track strategies, tactics and channels.”
Want to know more about what works and what doesn’t in the world of internal communications? Download PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.